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The $455 Billion Price Tag on Sudden Cardiac Arrest

The $455 Billion Price Tag on Sudden Cardiac Arrest

The cost of losing a loved one to sudden cardiac arrest is huge. With 315,000+ lives lost to sudden cardiac arrest every year, there’s a chance you may know someone—a coworker, a family member—feeling the direct impact of the loss of a loved one.

But cardiac arrest doesn’t just cost lives. It costs the American public billions of dollars every year.

$455 billion to be exact.

Find that hard to swallow? That’s a little more than half the annual cost of automobile deaths, and far more preventable.

In a recent article published by The Journal of Emergency Medical Services, a team of doctors and EMS specialists uncovered the full cost of the 90% SCA fatality rate.

How can we measure the cost of sudden cardiac arrest?

Researchers applied the same parameters used by the U.S. Department of Transportation in assessing the cost of automobile deaths.

The cost of sudden cardiac arrest refers to the total economic burden of expenses both directly and indirectly related to an SCA death.

Direct costs include emergency medical services (EMS) and in-hospital care. Indirect costs include “lost income, employers’ losses, quality of life and costs associated with a poorer quality of life” (Lurie, Levy, Moore, Swor).

How much is sudden cardiac arrest costing America?

Sudden cardiac arrest care—from the EMS services to in-hospital care— is relatively cheap. With a maximum price tag of $38,063 per SCA patient that survives to the point of hospital discharge, the cost of SCA care is approximately $4.5 billion.

The real cost isn’t in treating cardiac arrest; it’s in the aftermath of the annual 315,000+ lives we lose.

The researchers behind the JEMS article estimated an average value of $6.2 million per person. For all 315,000+ patients lost to cardiac arrest, that’s a $450 billion economic burden on the American taxpayer.

And $450 billion is a conservative number. Though the occurrence of sudden cardiac arrest increases with age, over 6000 under the age of 18 die from cardiac arrest each year.

What’s the answer to reducing the cost — both monetary and number of lives lost — associated with sudden cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest is unpredictable; but so are vehicle accidents. With the help of rigorous regulations implemented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driving, though still dangerous, has seen far less deaths than decades ago.

SCA has the potential to be its own success story. Emergency medical systems, healthcare providers, and bystanders can implement the following prevention and protection tactics:

  • Immediate Bystander CPR:
    • A victim’s chance of survival doubles when bystander CPR is administered—and the faster the better. Know the warning signs of cardiac arrest when they hit, and act fast in assessing the victim and delivering CPR.
  • Don’t Wait to Call 911:
    • It takes an ambulance an average of 8 – 14 minutes to arrive at the scene. When it comes to cardiac arrest, seconds matter. It’s crucial to get in touch with 911 as soon as possible.
  • Tech solutions that get trained emergency medical care to the scene faster:
    • Whether it’s a more portable, more affordable AED, or an app like EMBER that directs medical professionals to the scene of a cardiac arrest in real time, we have the technology to reduce SCA deaths. It’s our responsibility to make those solutions available.

With these tactics, every 1% increase in the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rate can alleviate America’s economic burden by $4.5 billion. Most importantly, it’ll ensure that family members and loved ones make it back home—the most priceless outcome of all.

Interested in learning more? Take a closer look at the numbers at the Journal of Emergency Medical Services: The Cost of Prehospital Cardiac Arrest Care.

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